The aroma of spices with discernible notes of cumin hits when you walk in the door of Atlantic Spice Co. The air is thick with the welcome, but sneeze-inducing mix of fine particles. The other senses are immediately stimulated too with colorful displays of kitchenware, packaged spices, extracts, cookbooks, dishtowels and kitchen gadgets for sale in the 1800-square-foot store. Just off the intersection of Routes 6 and 6A in North Truro, Atlantic Spice is both a retail destination for Cape Cod foodies and a national spice wholesaler that packages and sells spices, herbs, teas and botanicals from all over the world through their e-commerce business. The company was started in 1994 when friends Mark Irving and Neil Hanscomb teamed up to buy the warehouse (formerly a showroom for Flyer’s Boat Yard) and start an east coast counterpart to Hanscomb’s already established San Francisco Herb Co. The two wholesale herb companies initially shared a catalogue and customer database, with Atlantic Spice Co. taking over the customers east of the Mississippi. The original product line included spices, loose-leaf teas, herbs, botanicals and potpourri ingredients. The crafting business, once a big customer sector, has since become a smaller part of their market due to its seasonal nature, the waning popularity of potpourri, the increasing interest in food and specialty ingredients, and a conscious business decision to focus primarily on edible products. Basil, dill, peppermint, spearmint, garlic, paprika, kelp and buckwheat are some domestically-grown products carried by the sellers, while other ingredients such as saffron from Spain, oregano from Greece, marjoram from Egypt, bay leaves from Turkey, nutmeg from the West Indies and celery seed from India are examples of ingredients grown in only limited places due to climate, geography and world politics. Linnet Hultin, who has been with the company since 1994, lists za’atar, sumac and vanilla powder as some of their more exotic offerings, although she notes that these are becoming more mainstream as restaurateurs and home chefs continually explore and offer global cuisines and fusions.This little Cape Cod business is connected to the world spice market and its long history of trade and commerce and continued fluctuations; a recent cyclone in Madagascar wiped out eighty percent of the world vanilla crop, which, of course, affects price and availability in the market. In 1995 Atlantic Spice Co. added a second connected warehouse and a mezzanine level, doubling its space to almost 13,000 square feet. The additional workspace enabled them to open the retail store at the front of the warehouse, which Hultin manages. In addition to the wholesale product line, the mainstay of the store, Hultin and her staff source and sell an extensive array of teapots, utensils, ceramics, kitchen gadgets and accessories, coffee and tea brewing supplies, specialty food items, cookbooks and much, much more. “The staff is constantly researching new trends in cooking, health, entertaining and lifestyle,” Hultin says. “We listen to our customers who bring new ideas with them to the store and the wholesale ordering division. Some of our best new items are customer driven.” The store also retails many local products that are made with the Atlantic Spice Co.’s own ingredients, such as Cape Abilities seasoned salt blends, Cape Cod Cranberry Harvest savory jellies and jams, Little House of Thyme grain and soup blends, Dr. Frank’N’Swine hot sauces and rubs, and Pamet Bees honey products. Hultin estimates that the average customer spends an hour in the store, which is an easy proposition. They offer Asian cookware and ingredients, and they have the requisite section of Cape Cod foods and treats as well as racks of cards and a small section of botanical lotions, soaps and candles including Cape-made Summer House Soaps and Back Bay Soap, which both also use the company’s ingredients in their products. The retail store serves as the face for the wholesale business and is open seven days a week, year round with word of mouth bringing in new customers and many reliable regulars including local professionals and home cooks and gift seekers. “Since its inception, the retail store has steadily grown to almost equal sales in the wholesale division. The breakdown currently stands at 55% wholesale, 45% retail,” Hultin says. “The store also helps generate sales for the wholesale division, with first time shoppers becoming wholesale customers.” The holiday season and rainy summer days are the store’s busiest times, but even on a weekday in the off-season, the door opens and closes at regular intervals and at least a couple customers seem to be in the store at all times. Some go straight for a specific product, while others linger through the shelves and chat with the knowledgeable and friendly staff. In summer, the store averages 200 sales a day. At the time when the warehouse expanded and the retail store was added, Atlantic Spice Co. also launched their website, now the primary means for ordering, although phone ordering remains an option. About fifty percent of the customer base is made up of individuals, which include home chefs, crafters and health professionals, with the rest of the customers consisting largely of restaurants, food co-ops, breweries and grocery stores. The store employees answer phones and take wholesale orders and do customer service for both sides of the business. Hultin speaks of developing relationships with customers, some of which she has served for over twenty years. She recognizes the voices and area codes of regulars she’s never even met. Over time Atlantic Spice Co. has acquired clients in the western half of the U.S. and internationally while maintaining their east coast base. They continue to share distributors and an ongoing relationship as sister-business with San Francisco Herb Co. Hanscomb is primarily based on the west coast, but is a lifelong summer resident of the Cape. Irving has lived on Cape Cod since 1972 and he is at the warehouse daily, although, he says, “the company is so small that I don’t have an official job title.” Today they employ 10-12 people year round and hire a few more people to work the retail store in the summer. Corey Chapman came to Atlantic Spice as an intern from Provincetown High School in 1995. He has grown with the company and is now the warehouse manager responsible for wholesale buying and inventory control. Chapman is also the in-house IT specialist and has rewritten and updated most of the programs and software used by the company, which were originally developed by Hanscomb. Chapman ensures that nothing goes out of stock and nothing stays around for too long. They order six-month supplies of most items and pride themselves on selling fresh products that are sticky and fragrant with natural oils. The biggest seller is lavender and it is available in culinary grade, buds, bunches and essential oils. Atlantic Spice sells 15,000 pounds of lavender each year, and like some of their other great sellers it is a product with multiple uses. The next biggest sellers are domestic garlic and Saigon cinnamon. The garlic is sold minced, powdered and in granules and the Saigon cinnamon is sold ground, although sticks and chips of other types of cinnamon are on offer. Many of the products come directly from their country of origin, while others come through an importer in Brooklyn or from San Francisco Herb Co., which has more warehouse space. At this point the size and scale of Atlantic Spice Co. has stabilized with an inventory between 450 and 500 items. When they add new items, they typically drop others, but wish to remain a reliable source of the standards that customers depend on them for. The print catalogue is updated yearly, and the full catalogue is also available online. They try to keep up with trends and have added more teas and salts in recent years as sales and interest have grown. And with the rise of microbrews they have catered to those needs with plenty of orange peel and ground coriander. Atlantic Spice Co. sells ingredients to some Truro neighbors, including South Hollow Spirits and Sweet Escape Ice Cream, as well as many other businesses throughout the Cape and New England, such as Pain d’Avignon, PB Boulangerie, Provincetown Portuguese Bakery, Mass Bay Brewery, Ipswich Ale, Jack’s Abby and Mystic Brewery. They also sell to 95% of the restaurants on the outer Cape. Hultin says they deal directly with many local chefs, which means that, “the staff can make suggestions about new products that might be of particular interest to a specific restaurant, based on their knowledge of the menu,” and chefs come to them with specific requests. Irving says Truro has been experiencing a revitalization, and neighboring businesses Truro Vineyards, Salty Market and Chequessett Chocolate are also attracting tourists and shoppers to the area. He is excited by young people’s growing interest in food and their entrepreneurial spirit to start their own small businesses and appreciates that Atlantic Spice Co. can directly serve this base. By offering their products in any amount, they are able to fill a middle ground between larger wholesalers and grocery stores, catering specifically to small businesses like pizza places and brewing companies that are able to buy the quantity they need rather than thousands of pounds or just a few ounces. Irving and his wife Eleanor, who also helps with the company and in the store since retiring from her teaching career, are grateful to have a successful business that allows them to live on Cape Cod. They are also happy to provide year round employment for members of their community. As Chapman notes, the Internet removes barriers of location. Product can be shipped from anywhere and the company has partnered with UPS, which was already making daily deliveries to the outer Cape, and is now able to fill the trucks going back. They also use the U.S. Postal Service for some of their shipping and mailing and employees who live in Provincetown and Orleans make local deliveries. While the wholesale division seems to work in spite of being located on the Cape, it is the unique location that makes the store thrive. Irving says the catalog is a “little digest that people take home and they go back to Indiana or Texas or Connecticut, and say ‘we were there on vacation and stopped in this great store and we got some great spices and gift items’ and they tell their family and neighbors and they have a book that reminds them. Cape Cod is great for spreading the word.”
An hour with: Truro distiller in fine spirits
Cape Cod Times Jan. 7, 2016
By Ethan Genter
When David Roberts Jr. walked into the distillery at South Hollows Spirits at 9:30 Monday morning, he smelled the beginnings of Twenty Boat Rum instead of tractor fumes.
The distillery, formerly a decrepit old barn that housed the Truro Vineyards tractor, has now become the heart of South Hollows Spirits.
"I would come back after a storm and never know if this would still be here," he said about the old barn.
Roberts had been at the distillery since just before 8 a.m., after seeing his kids get on the school bus. He had fired up the 250-gallon copper pot and column still, which contained water fermented with the sugar cane juice and molasses used to make his Twenty Boat Rum.
The Roberts family has owned and operated Truro Vineyards since 2007. They opened the distillery in 2013. Roberts had worked at SweetWater Brewing Co. in Atlanta.
By 9:30 a.m., Roberts had already dumped the "foreshots," a gallon of the first liquid from the still, full of methanol and aldehydes.
He topped a six-gallon container with a funnel, and clear liquid began to trickle in from the still.
The fermented water is heated in the still. It is filtered from impurities as it evaporates and rises through the four chambers of the still. After the vapor passes through these chambers, it is funneled through thick, stainless steel pipes and into twirling coils in the column of the still. Those coils are surrounded by cold water, which return the vapor to a liquid state.
Roberts monitors this process on a control panel that shows the temperature during various parts of the distilling process. He tries to keep the top chamber around 174 degrees.
After the foreshots, a portion of the distilled water — called the heads — is removed.
"I don't know what nail polish tastes like, but I would guess it would be similar,” he said, as he dipped his finger under the stream and brought it to his mouth.
After the heads portion of the distillation process, comes the hearts, and then the tails. Each portion becomes purer, containing fewer dangerous chemicals.
Twenty Boat amber and spiced rums are distilled twice. The spiced rum will go into a 55-gallon steel drum, where it will steep with a hemp bag containing cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla bean, rose hip, anise, lemon and orange peel, allspice, nutmeg and chai.
Then comes the aging. The amber rum is aged in chardonnay-toasted Hungarian oak barrels and burnt-oak whiskey barrels. The rum ages for various amounts of time before being blended, filtered and bottled.
The spiced rum is vibrant after the steeping. The spices come from the Atlantic Spice Co. down the road in North Truro. “I could run there if I had to,” Roberts said.
The amber is smoother, and Roberts suggests drinking it on the rocks or neat — no mixers.
While spiced and amber rum are the only two in production now, the distillery is planning a small-batch gin made with juniper grown on the property and Angelica root from a partner farm. Roberts says he may consult local brewers for the possibility of beers aged in rum barrels.
One project especially dear to Roberts is the rum set to age three or four years in a sherry barrel. He siphoned about 30 milliliters of the rum out of the barrel to a graduated cylinder, then to a tasting glass. He began swirling it, slowly adding a few drops of water.
This rum is vibrant, he said, with a spicy melody accompanied by a harmony of fruity notes from the sherry barrel. It might debut on shelves in May.
Smell of Success
mysecretboston.com June 03, 2014
It's next to impossible to find the prefab warehouse that is home to the Atlantic Spice Company retail store, but follow your nose. The retail outlet of this wholesale distributor, in its unlikely location set back from the road in North Truro, is filled to the brim with fresh and pungent spices, herbs, tea, dried fruit, oils, extracts, nuts, seeds, pasta, grains, and beans in countless and exotic varieties—four different types of paprika, for example, Aleppo peppers from Syria, Thai Sriracha hot sauce, Tunisian harissa, Mexican chilis, bee pollen, and critically acclaimed cajun spice. Yeah: in Truro. There are also unique housewares and kitchen gadgets for sale here.
Truro vineyard ventures into rum trade
capecod.wickedlocal.com April 20, 2014
By Erik Borg
More than 20 years ago, Truro Vineyards brought wine making to Cape Cod. Now its doubling down with a distillery.
The family-owned vineyard in North Truro will release its first liquor, a spiced rum, next month as it ventures into the world of still-making.
After two years of hard work, we finally have a very special and unique product, said Kristen Roberts, whose family has owned the vineyard since 2007.
The rum, called 20 Boat, is distilled on-site at the vineyard estate on Shore Road and flavored with a combination of cardamom, cinnamon, orange peel and eight other spices from the neighboring Atlantic Spice Company.
The venture was led by Kristen's brother, David Roberts Jr., who previously brewed beer at the Sweetwater microbrewery in Atlanta before bringing his distilling aspirations to the family business.
For the Roberts, who have already surprised many by turning Truro into productive wine territory, the decision to foray into distilling was a natural one.
There's an obvious cross-over there, but it was also a great professional challenge for us. Lots of trial and error and a lot of fun, Kristen Roberts said.
And when it came time to name their rum, the family quickly turned to the areas rich Prohibition era past for inspiration.
In particular, the name 20 Boat is a nod to a celebrated group of local rum runners or over water smugglers who gained notoriety for their exploits in 1930. As the story goes, their rum-stocked boat eluded 20 police and Coast Guard boats in a daring chase from Dorchester to Provincetown Harbor after the men were spotted trying to offload their cargo outside of Boston. Under the shroud of fog, the men outmaneuvered the authorities and eventually landed ashore on the tip of Cape Cod and successfully fled on foot.
We just thought, what a perfect fit, and we just wanted to kind of pay homage to that story, Kristen Roberts said.
For now, the family expects rum-making to be a small part of their overall business. The 2,000 square-foot distillery, situated in a restored carriage house next to the winery, will produce only 400 cases of rum. The initial batch will include the spiced rum and an amber rum being released in September that is currently aging in the vineyards chardonnay barrels, Roberts said.
In comparison, the vineyard usually produces 600 to 700 cases of its more popular wine varietals such as its cabernet franc, she said.
The vineyard plans to distribute the rum to a limited number of restaurants and liquor stores on the Cape, but will sell most of the product on-site at the estate.
Kristen Roberts estimated that the vineyard hosted more than 20,000 people for wine tastings last year.
Our plans are to integrate it very much in the model of what we do with wine, said David Roberts Sr., speaking before the selectmen on March 25 during a hearing to obtain a special farm distillery-pouring license.
At the hearing, Truro Vineyards became just the second operation in the state, after Cisco Brewery in Nantucket, to receive a dual pouring license for both a winery-brewery and distillery.
Add some spice to a Cape Cod jaunt
The Boston Globe March 22, 2014
By Ellen Albanese
Need salt? At Atlantic Spice Co. you can choose from sea salt, fleur de sel, Hawaiian, Himalayan pink, and Bolivian rose, among others. Paprika comes in Hungarian, Spanish, and domestic varieties. From allspice to zahtar, the shop offers more than 250 herbs, spices, and essential oils, as well as coffee, tea blends, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, pasta, beans, rice, and grains. But the best reason to visit the industrial-looking (but fragrant) blue building near the tip of Cape Cod is the rock-bottom prices. Because it’s a wholesale company, larger packages yield the deepest discounts. Kitchen-friendly sizes of most spices cost an economical $2.50. But you can buy a pound of oregano (23 times the amount in the spice-jar “refill” size) for $6.80. Four ounces of pure vanilla extract is $5.30 (about half the supermarket price), but a pint — 16 ounces — is $13.45. The trick is to shop with a friend (or two), buy in bulk, and divvy up the goods. Take zipper-lock bags, reuse your old spice containers, or purchase inexpensive plastic jars and bottles at the store. With your savings you can splurge on the funky tableware, teapots, and gourmet kitchen tools and gadgets.
Cabo Cado: Retro souvenirs with a modern twist
Cape & Plymouth Business April 2014
By Kathryn Eident
For most people, an unexpected layoff is devastating. For Vinnie Arnone, it almost was. The 39-year-old Bourne resident was enjoying a blossoming career as a graphic designer at Reebok and was about to get married when he got the dreaded call in January 2012.
Instead of panicking, Arnone threw himself into wedding preparations, designing the couple's save-the-date cards and thank-you gifts for their guests. His retro, kitschy tote bags, koozies and postcards were popular with the couple's family and friends, and the newly unemployed Arnone realized he may have hit on a good idea.
I felt there was a niche that needed some serious love on the Cape and that was the souvenir gift type item," he says. "I was kind of at a point where I was like, "whether I fail or succeed, just do something, just do it."
Arnone's hunch was right. Two years later, his off-the-cuff creations have become the basis for a growing line of locally-made souvenirs and custom-made gifts under his label, Cabo Cado. Today, his tote bags, koozies, pint glasses and other products can be found in stores across the Cape and Islands, in Puerto Rico and online.
The design relies on Arnone's memories of growing up on the Cape, collecting tea towels and handkerchiefs emblazoned with maps and images from the 1950s and '60s, combined with a nod to today's fads and popular activities. The result is a throwback look in a modern color palette with imagery that a hip visitor can relate to. For instance, the design on his Martha's Vineyard tote bag features an Alpaca, an animal similar to a llama originally from South America.
"I doubt you would have seen an Alpaca farm on a design from the '50s or '60s, but there's an Alpaca farm on the Vineyard now," he says. "I try to design and create in a way that feels sincere to me, but I try to infuse it with iconography that's unique to the location."
His customers seem to agree. They range from young women planning their dream weddings to shop owners at stores like Atlantic Spice Co. in Truro and the Little Beach Gallery in Hyannis, to corporate clients such as the Puerto Rican rum distillery Bacardi.
"I try to have something for everybody," he says.
This sense of the market and a healthy dose of flexibility are key to how Arnone approaches his growing business. He started out small, producing one line of products with the same design, to test whether there was room to expand.
"At the beginning I was nervous - I'd be like, "I have to get in this store, it's the coolest store in P-town, and I had a lot of pressure on myself," he says. "Now I feel very comfortable going in there and being proud of the products I make, and at the same time there's no pressure that I'm making a sale."
He quickly decided to source all of his materials within the United States, and wanted to keep a hand in each stage of the process, from design to shipping. That sometimes means long hours hand-stamping labels, or drawing individualized doodles on each package he ships.
"Obviously going this route is considerably more of an investment," he says. "But I knew from day one I'd rather have a higher price point with a quality product."
For the brick and mortar part of his business, Arnone keeps it personal and keeps it local. He makes sure to tell his story and explain the reasoning behind his designs - something he learned when he worked as a graphic designer at Old Navy in New York City.
"If you have a story that's tangible, there's something special about that," he says.
He brokers deals with each shop owner individually, mutually deciding whether his items will be sold on consignment or through another arrangement, and sticks to a rule of placing his products in one store per town. "I don't want to saturate the market," he says.
His willingness to compromise has paid off - helping him score a contract with Bacardi, which has sold more than 8,000 of his specially designed koozies and pint glasses over the past year. Getting there, though, was a tough learning experience at times.
"They said, 'Here's what we want: koozies, pint glasses, tote bags. You are going to send us your stuff , work out your wholesale price and that will be it.'" He realized he'd have to cover the shipping costs, which would eat into his profit margin. "It was very stressful," he says.
But instead of losing the deal, he got creative: each time he and his wife flew to Puerto Rico to visit her family, they'd bring along boxes of tote bags and koozies to save on shipping costs.
"What I like about working with Bacardi is that at no point have they taken me out of the equation," he says. "It's not like I just gave them a design they could then print up. I know when they want a pint glass, I'm making money on that pint glass, and that's what's great."
Arnone also sells his goods online. He has a popular page on Etsy,van online marketplace for handmade goods. He keeps customersbup-to-date with Facebook page and a blog on his website. Thesebsites have connected him with a whole new market of customersbwanting his local designs and custom products for parties and weddings.
“I wasn’t thinking about getting into custom work, it came about through customer requests,” he says. “I feel like if I put more focus toward it, it might end up being something substantial.”
When he’s not working on his Cabo Cado label, he’s also designing logos for local restaurants and businesses as a freelance graphic designer. It helps him promote his products – sometimes he'll design a logo as part of a deal to have the client sell his designs in his/her gift shop.
“I’m in an advantageous position because I’m doing work on the side to fill the gaps,” he said. “If I had to make decisions solely based on what this project makes, I’d be going about this differently. I’m making sure [the label] makes something back and a little more.”
What’s been most exciting for Arnone is being part of a place he loves.
“When I came back to the Cape, it was with a sense of purpose to design local,” he says. “These weren’t projects where I was going to retire early or anything like that. These were designing into my community and creating stuff I think people would like.” It seems to be working.
Cape Cod’s Culinary Mecca
berkshirefinearts.com April 21, 2013
By Charles Giuliano
No trip to lower Cape Cod is complete without a visit to the deliciously fragrant Atlanic Spice Co. There is an ecstacy that overwhelms when inhaling the exotic blend of enticing aromas. It's a natural high for foodies. Approaching Provincetown on Route 6 it is just before the entrance to the shore road, Route 6A, which runs parallel to the beach through North Truro. It had been a number of years since we were last in P’Town. So we were running low on the essential, precious, frightfully expensive, authentic Spanish saffron. It is the must have ingredient to make a superb paella. I can’t tell you how many times restaurants serving so called “authentic” paella have either skipped or skimped on saffron. An ounce tin from Atlantic Spice, just a pinch at a time, lasts us for several years. Our easy to make and delicious one dish paella, topped with shrimp and shellfish, is always a sure hit for a dinner party. I winced when asking the owner, Eleanora Irving, the current price of the decorative tin. There was sticker shock when she quoted $110. But seeing my frozen expression she offered the far cheaper one gram vial. “No” I responded my voice quavering “I’ve got to go for the ounce.” It seems that Eleanora and her husband Mark Irving have operated Atlantic Spice Co. for the past twenty years. They import from all over the world. “People ask why we run this business on Cape Cod” she said. “It’s simple. We started the business because we live here. And we just love it.” I discovered Atlantic Spice Co. about when they started and mentioned that I used to pay about $75 for that remarkable tin of saffron. “That sounds about right” she said as we chatted at the register. Her Chinese parents came to American during World War Two and planned to return. “Then the Communists took over and that wasn’t possible” she said. Over the past two decades the business has greatly expanded to now include kitchen accessories, tea pots, serving dishes, cook books, bottled condiments and a great range of items. Recalling the early days she said “Originally we just had barrels of herbs and spices.” They still do but now there are shelves with bins of smaller portions of items. Before we started exploring the store Astrid reminded me that we still had several pounds of loose teas and herbs as well as the dry rubs I use for barbecue. Consider what you pay for those silly little bottles of herbs and spices in super markets. I bought a medium sized bag of bay leaves which should last for the rest of my natural life. Let me know if you need a few for your next batch of red sauce. Or as we Italians would say “gravy.” I purchased a jumbo bag of Italian herbs. There is nothing like fresh Herbs De Provence which is awesome on baked chicken. Or kick ass chili for beans. There always seem to be exotic new dry rubs. This time I went for the Jamaican Jerk rub as well as a mix to make Blackened fish. You need an iron skillet on a hot grill to make blackened fish. Dredged in butter then rub the fish cooks with just one or two minutes on each side. It makes so much dense smoke that you can only prepare it outside. This summer I plan to make Jamaican Jerk Chicken for the first time. On line I have been checking recipes which call for lots of lime juice and one intriguing one that has Meyer’s rum as an ingredient. It gives new meaning to the expression “Don’t be a jerk.” Astrid explored the incredible range of herbal teas. While I passed on my favorite Earl Grey and settled for a large bag of Oolong. Eleanora gave us copies of the new catalogue. You can also go on line to order. But there’s nothing quite like putting your nose and face in the place.
Truro business' ingredients for success
Cape Cod Times June 17, 2012
By ROBERT GOLD
Once a year, Daryl Patterson and Judith Bailey spend a week living cottage life in North Truro.
The long-time upstate New York couple make sure they visit the Atlantic Spice Co. retail shop every Cape vacation.
Bailey likes to load up on quinoa and steak rubs. Patterson likes the teas. And there was one year that dried fruit was on her taste radar.
Remember I was on that papaya kick?" Patterson said, reminiscing with Bailey during their traditional visit to the North Truro store during this year's vacation.
"I love to walk in and smell," Bailey said, standing along the back wall of teas and spices.
The business, started in 1994, features both a wholesale and retail division.
Purple sticky rice, arrowroot powder, garlic lemon orzo, peppermint tea bags and hundreds of other products line the shelves.
"We wander around and look at and get things that are unusual for us," Patterson said.
That sense of finding something different helps spur business, co-owner Mark Irving said.
"It's exploring something new," Irving said, whose business features both a wholesale and retail division.
Irving started the business in 1994 with his friend and Provincetown neighbor Neil Hanscomb, the owner of San Francisco Herb Co., in California.
Hanscomb wanted to reach the Eastern U.S. market and Irving, then a building contractor, wanted to try a new trade.
They bought a foreclosed building on Shore Road, slightly hidden off Route 6. The former boat yard and hardware store was vacant when the pair bought it.
Within the first couple years, Irving tripled its size to 12,000 square feet to handle huge bags and barrels of spices, herbs and other food stored in the warehouse.
Irving and a crew of about 10 run the Cape business, he said, with Hanscomb not involved with day-to-day operations. The California store is a separate business.
Atlantic Spice sells about 460 different spices, herbs, teas, oils, nuts and other foods nationwide.
At the wholesale level, the business taps into about 50 different U.S. vendors, who import food from India, Indonesia, China, Egypt and throughout Europe, wholesale manager Cory Chapman said. It also gets items domestically.
On a typical shipment to the warehouse, the business gets about 1,000 to 5,000 pounds worth of goods.
The shop sells to some customers outside the United States, but it focuses on domestic sales to a range of customers including home chefs, specialty shops, health food stores, buying co-ops, restaurants and even breweries who use the spices to flavor their beers.
Tracking the market for hundreds of foods means adjusting some prices online about once a month, Chapman and Irving said. But the business avoids making too many changes so customers can get accustomed to the costs.
A walk through the warehouse could be considered a culinary fan's dream. Huge barrels of spices like Saigon cinnamon, yerba mate and tellicherry black peppercorn fill the ground floor. Bagged by the shop with an automated assembly device, many of the products come in one-pound packages. Other non-food products, like myrrh gum pieces used for incense, are stocked as well.
On the second floor, 125-pound bags of cumin are stacked near huge sacks of Egyptian chamomile.
The company typically keeps at least a 90-day supply of products but its purchase of lavender is truly in bulk.
To lock in good prices and since lavender lasts well the company started buying its entire one-year supply in a single order. That translates into 20,000 pounds of lavender, or nearly 1,300 bags.
In the shop, retail manager and buyer Linnet Hultin likes to tinker with the product list.
Forget trade shows, she said about finding ideas.
"We are out in the middle of nowhere," Hultin said.
Instead, she'll find something in a cookbook, a recipe or online and order it for the store. Sometimes, the shop will try something out like sliced crystalized ginger in the shop, then add it to the wholesale business when it proves popular.
Cookbooks, tea pots and other food related items add to the retail store. The business also embraces the local camping market too, selling bug zappers.
The store also sell products from local businesses, including soaps and jams.
Open year-round, seven days a week, the retail segment has matched the sales volume of the wholesale business in recent years, Hultin said.
Harwich-based Cape Cod Cranberry Harvest started selling its cranberry-based jellies at Atlantic Spice about six years ago, said Tina Labossiere, who owns the business with Debbie Greiner. The business sells its products in about 50 stores Cape-wide, and at others off Cape.
"What is nice is they are open year round, especially on that end (of the Cape)," Labossiere said.
Plus, Labossiere can't help but buy items for herself when she drops off several cases to the store every two weeks. She'll call her husband, Rob, who does the home cooking to let him know she's stopping at the store and asks him if he wants anything for their kitchen.
"We purchase while we are there. When we walk in with our order, we walk in with a wallet," she said.